Saturday, December 6, 2014

Killing wolves may lead to more sheep deaths the following year

Washington State University researchers have found that it is counter-productive to kill wolves to keep them from preying on livestock. Shooting and trapping lead to more dead sheep and cattle the following year, not fewer.

Writing in the journal PLOS ONE, WSU wildlife biologist Rob Wielgus and data analyst Kaylie Peebles say that, for each wolf killed, the odds of more livestock depredations increase significantly.The trend continues until 25 percent of the wolves in an area are killed. Ranchers and wildlife managers then see a "standing wave of livestock depredations," said Wielgus.
Moreover, he and Peebles write, that rate of wolf mortality "is unsustainable and cannot be carried out indefinitely if federal re-listing of wolves is to be avoided."
The gray wolf was federally listed as endangered in 1974. During much of its recovery in the northern Rocky Mountains, government predator control efforts have been used to keep wolves from attacking sheep and livestock. With wolves delisted in 2012, sport hunting has also been used. But until now, the effectiveness of lethal control has been what Wielgus and Peebles call a "widely accepted, but untested, hypothesis."
Their study is the largest of its kind, analyzing 25 years of lethal control data from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services Inter-agency Annual Wolf Reports in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. They found that killing one wolf increases the odds of depredations 4 percent for sheep and 5 to 6 percent for cattle the following year. If 20 wolves are killed, livestock deaths double.

Wielgus said the wolf killings likely disrupt the social cohesion of the pack. While an intact breeding pair will keep young offspring from mating, disruption can set sexually mature wolves free to breed, leading to an increase in breeding pairs. As they have pups, they become bound to one place and can't hunt deer and elk as freely. Occasionally, they turn to livestock.
Under Washington state's wolf management plan, wolves will be a protected species until there are 15 breeding pairs for three years. Depredations and lethal controls, legal and otherwise, are one of the biggest hurdles to that happening.
Wolves from the Huckleberry Pack killed more than 30 sheep in Stevens County, Washington., this summer, prompting state wildlife officials to authorize killing up to four wolves. An aerial gunner ended up killing the pack's alpha female. A second alpha female, from a pack near Ellensburg, Washington was illegally shot and killed in October.That left three breeding pairs in the state.
As it is, said Wielgus, a small percentage of livestock deaths are from wolves. According to the management plan, they account for between .1 percent and .6 percent of all livestock deaths--a minor threat compared to other predators, disease, accidents and the dangers of calving.
In an ongoing study of non-lethal wolf control, Wielgus's Large Carnivore Lab this summer monitored 300 radio-tagged sheep and cattle in Eastern Washington wolf country. None were killed by wolves.
Still, there will be some depredations, he said. He encourages more non-lethal interventions like guard dogs, "range riders" on horseback, flags, spotlights and "risk maps" that discourage grazing animals in hard-to-protect, wolf-rich areas.
"The only way you're going to completely eliminate livestock depredations is to get rid of all the wolves," Wielgus said, "and society has told us that that's not going to happen."

I do not know if this research also applies to coyotes. In our area there are more coyotes than wolves as well as coyote/wolf crosses. I have heard that if you kill or remove coyotes from your farm, then others move into the territory. They may be more aggressive than the previous tenants, and you may have already "trained" the original coyotes to somewhat respect your fences and boundaries with some of the above mentioned strategies, so that they hunt elsewhere where the pickings are easier. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Lamb and sheep prices at Hoards Station November 9-13th 2014

Lambs # Head Low $ High $ Avg $ Top $ Avg Wt
110 lbs + 147 151.50 206.85 187.54 217.00 121
95 - 109 lbs 326 201.42 213.41 210.15 224.00 101
80 - 94 lbs 538 201.00 225.93 214.63 245.00 87
65 - 79 lbs 994 207.92 238.66 222.67 294.00 73
50 - 64 lbs 528 205.08 234.91 221.32 310.00 59
49 lbs and less 113 167.43 209.25 186.62 295.00 46
Sheep # Head Low $ High $ Avg $ Top $ Avg Wt
All weights 751 102.91 123.59 114.53 170.00 137

Friday, November 14, 2014

Using a Dorper Ram this year

Our ram above
Because we had some degree of success with this boy last year, we are using him to breed at least half of our ewe flock. Even though he appears quite wooly before he shed (see top picture) he had some beautiful lambs. They were definitely bigger than the Katahdins he was bred to. The only problem was that they were often singles, but then he did breed a lot of first time mothers. We were hesitant to use him at first as we only bought him as part of a package when we bought some Dorper ewes.
Fortunately, the ewes he bred last year were not wooly and had A coats for the most part, so the lambs all shed beautifully. They also fetched a higher price at the sale barn than the pure Katahdin lambs we sold.

The main advantages of Dorpers are that they are very stocky and have great back ends as you can see from the lower photo (not our ram). As the leg of lamb is the most important and heaviest cut, this is what you are looking for in a good carcass. As they are also a shedding hair sheep, they make a great combination with an existing flock of Katahdins.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Farm tour

Last Saturday we went on a farm tour of the Lindsay area. The photos above show biosecurity in action at one large sheep farm that runs 1000 ewes. Note the blue plastic booties that cover up your boots and shoes. These are disposable and stop diseases from spreading from your farm to theirs and vice-verse.
The lambs shown below were the result of an accelerated breeding program that gives about three lamb crops in two years. Hormone mixtures are added to the feed to help promote out of season breeding, but some ewes just naturally do this. The lambs shown were Dorset or Suffolk crosses, mixed in with a dual purpose British milking sheep.

After a good restaurant lunch, we went to see another farm which had 400 ewes. The owner had converted a hog operation into a sheep farm. He really didn't have to make a lot of changes. He also did an accelerated breeding program and has been experimenting with the use of lights, mimicking the change of seasons.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Colourful sheep

Freshly dyed sheep run in view of the highway near Bathgate, Scotland. The sheep farmer has been dying his sheep with nontoxic dye to entertain passing motorists. Aren't they lovely? Hope it keeps away the parasites !

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Suddenly, everyone wants llamas

I am guessing that because we have had such a long hard winter here in Canada,  as soon as the temperature is a few degrees above freezing and the sun comes out, people start to think spring. When they think spring, they also think of animals- lambs frisking in the fields, and the llamas that are needed to look after them and protect them from coyotes,wolves and stray dogs.

In the last week or two, we have had about seven serious inquiries about our llamas for sale. The one in the photo above is going to Nova Scotia and another one left yesterday for the Hamilton region. Another two year old female is going up to Bancroft and we have to deliver two more to Brockville, Ontario in the near future. Seven have either left or are about to leave. It is sad to part with them, but I was asked by my doctor about two years ago; "How long do you think you can keep on doing this?"
I thought this was quite funny at the time as I was in pretty good health, but I understand that llamas are fairly big, although not as heavy as a horse or cow, but they can still knock you over accidentally. As nearly all my elderly relatives broke hips and legs in their later years, I realised that I should take the doctor seriously and at least cut down the numbers to half a dozen or so. The sheep can stay for a while-they are a lot smaller and tend not to knock you down unless you stand in the way of a stampeding herd - which I have done in the past. I was standing in front of the sheep trying to get a good photo and our Border Collie was driving them from behind. They all ran right over the top of me, but I survived a little flatter but with no broken bones!

For more information about our llamas and care and feeding of them, see:

Friday, March 14, 2014

Ontario Stockyards Lamb and goat prices March 2014


 I thought I would post this as a comparison to last year (2013) prices at the same time of year. Cookstown.  Note: Prices here are generally higher than at Hoards Station

 Sheep, Lambs & Goats (Report for Monday March 10, 2014) Ontario Stockyards, Cookstown

 Lambs, New Crop /cwt. 202.00 232.50 260.00
 Lambs, 65 - 80 lbs. /cwt. 200.00 235.00 246.00
 Lambs, 80 - 95 lbs. /cwt. 185.00 207.00 222.50
 Lambs, Over 95 lbs. /cwt. 175.00 196.00 225.00
 Lambs, Over 110 lbs. /cwt. 130.00 170.00 177.50
 Feeder Lambs /cwt. 150.00 200.00 210.00
 Sheep /cwt. 80.00 90.00 105.00
 Thinner Types (All Weights) 72.00 90.00 100.00
 Rams /cwt. 85.00 100.00 115.00
 Kids 35 to 49 lbs. /Head 60.00 90.00 130.00
         50 to 75 lbs. /Head 75.00 105.00 145.00
 Young Goats /Head 60.00 80.00 110.00
 Mature Does /Head 75.00 105.00 125.00
 Mature Billies /Head 150.00 250.00 -
 Comments:  1278 sheep and lambs +69 goats - All lambs traded actively with prices $5-7 cwt. higher.  Good sheep and goats sold steady.  Plainer sheep and thicker sheep sold under pressure.